July 23, 2023
Wis 12:13, 16-19; Ps 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43
Thank you for generous donations to last Sunday’s Annual Collection for Solidarity with the Church in Africa. $661!!
The main message in the readings today is that our God is extraordinarily merciful. Only God can read hearts and God can decide how to respond to the different predicaments we find ourselves in. Humans often become waaaay over confident about our ability to understand human nature and human failings.
Notice how quickly the slaves were willing to pull the weeds up right away. A black and white situation. Only takes a couple of minutes. Getter done. The Master, however, knows this is a more delicate job. For one thing, there is another big factor involved. An enemy!! Someone deliberately causing harm. This isn’t just a case of ignorance or carelessness. It’s deliberate.
St. Paul tells us in the second reading today in his letter to the Romans that, “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. Rom. 8:26-27
The human heart is delicate; complex. Very complex.
Consider what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the ‘heart’ in paragraphs from the section on Prayer:
2562. …According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.
2563 The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.
Recall again from a couple verses that we read last week from Paul’s Letter to the Roman, “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Read homily from US Bishops’ website on the occasion of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.…. (See below) How has our temerity and general bewilderment about spirituality and sexuality influenced our decisions on the Church’s teaching regarding artificial contraception? Who planted these seeds of doubt?
What Seeds are You Planting in Your Life?
Reading 1: Wisdom 12:13, 16–19
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 86:5–6, 9–10, 15–16
Reading 2: Rom 8:26–27
Gospel: Mt 13:24–43
Maybe you have had the experience of getting ready to plant a garden and accidentally spilled several kinds of seeds together. As you started to sort them, you were able to identify some easily, but others looked so much alike that it was hard to sort one kind of seed or another. It is the same way in life.
Each of us makes many choices each day, and some of our choices are grains of wheat and others are weeds. What seeds are you planting in your life? You are here at Mass. A good seed. Maybe you saw someone’s need for help, and you offered, even before being asked! A good seed. But you also know that there are things that would not be characterized as good seed. Maybe you skipped saying grace when having lunch with a friend or maybe you kept watching television even though you heard your spouse or your mom or dad
struggling with a chore. As the Catechism says, “In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 827). It can sometimes be difficult to identify what kind of seeds we are planting through our thoughts and our choices.
As we begin National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, we can look back at a particular seed: the birth control pill and, with it, the explosion of contraceptive technology. This development, this seed,
seemed to promise so much good for married couples. It was anticipated that marriages would be happier and more stable, and there was great expectation that the Church would change its perennial teaching and, for the first time, accept contraception as licit. However, through the wisdom of the Church’s tradition, Pope St. Paul
VI was able to identify contraception, not as a seed that would bear good fruit, but as a weed.
With great love for the Church and couples, Pope St. Paul VI promulgated Humanae vitae (his encyclical on God’s plan for married love, human sexuality, the gift of fertility and responsible parenthood). In it, he warned that widespread acceptance of contraception would have serious consequences, not only for couples but also for society. The Holy Father predicted that the result would be:
1. Increased marital infidelity.
2. A general lowering of morality.
3. Husbands objectifying their wives. And,
4. Governments enacting coercive birth control programs.
Now that 55 years have passed since Pope St. Paul VI made these predictions, we can see the negative effects of wide-spread contraceptive use. While we could quantify the reality of each prediction with social science data, we can also simply look at the evidence around us and acknowledge the truth of his prophetic insight. For example: (Please use one of two of the examples below. Each of the examples can be validated by social science
– Currently most developed nations have widespread non-marital sexual activity among their population that is facilitated by contraception. This has yielded many negative outcomes
including: fewer people marrying and more men and women cohabiting; higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases; children born outside of marriage (because all contraceptives
have failure rates); the legalization of abortion since it is used as contraceptive back-up; and fewer couples choosing to have children.
– High rates of divorce are prevalent among contraceptive users as opposed to those who
follow Catholic teaching and use natural methods to space births in their families.
– The nature of marriage is being questioned. One of the reasons that facilitates this is the notion that procreation is not an essential part of marriage and that men and women do not possess unique gifts that are needed to form the marital union.
– Some question not only why marriage must be between a man and a woman but why it should be limited to just two people. The promotion of polyamory (the sexual unions of a group of people) is becoming more prevalent.
– Premarital chastity is seen as something unrealistic, and parents are encouraged to procure birth control for their teenagers.
– Men and women have devalued the place of children in marriage with more choosing to not
have children and those who eventually do, often find that they have to resort to assisted reproductive technologies.
– Due to the choice to have children at later ages, assisted reproductive technologies have
grown. Many of these technologies such as IVF (“test-tube-babies”), are immoral and surrogacy has been added to those choices.
– Pornography has been mainstreamed in many developed nations and addiction to pornography is now destroying marriages and harming families.
– The rapid rise of so-called “gender affirming procedures and treatments” are another
example of the misguided “triumph of technology” over nature where there are no limits to the manipulation of the human body.
– Governments have enacted unjust population and so-called reproductive health legislation:
e.g., China’s one-child policy and history of forces abortion; the U.S. federal government’s HHS Contraceptive mandate that insisted religious organizations such as the Little Sisters of the Poor provide contraceptive coverage for employees.
As in today’s parable of the weeds and the wheat, contraception, and Natural Family Planning (NFP) can seem very similar. Contraception seems like an easy, efficient solution to support marriage, but rather than good fruit, it is a weed that bears thorns as already mentioned. Another thorn is misinformation about NFP that
dissuades couples embracing it in their marriages. Few people know that modern NFP is highly effective. Few people know that NFP enriches both the marital relationship and the spiritual lives of husband and wives. The good seed is the Lord God’s beautiful truth of marital love that the Church offers. Openness to that knowledge
that with good instruction and personal follow-up and then faithful use of one of the various NFP methods are confidently throughout a woman’s childbearing years, allowing a couple to live out their call to responsible parenthood and harmonizing both the unitive and procreative aspects of the conjugal embrace. NFP is also true family planning in that it helps a couple achieve as well as avoid a pregnancy.
NFP can be likened to the mustard seed or yeast—small things that have a big impact! By coming to learn NFP and understand their shared fertility, through discerning together whether or not God is calling them to have a child, and in exercising the virtues of marital chastity and temperance, the couple’s relationship is blessed. Couples using NFP often speak of feeling closer to one another or having better communication as well as feeling closer to God. When reflecting on love, life, and responsible parenthood, we are reflecting on
something that cannot be measured or evaluated only in terms of this world alone but that always has a bearing on eternity, on the eternal destiny of man (see Gaudium et spes, 51).
The Lord does not want just part of our lives. He wants all of our lives, all of our hearts. There is no aspect of our lives that is outside his loving concern, his “care of all.” We are all called to holiness and to seek it according to our state in life. Following the Church’s teaching regarding marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood is a path to holiness. It is a good seed that bears much fruit.
In the second reading, St. Paul assures us that the Spirit will come to aid us in our weakness. If you have not yet been able to embrace the Church’s teaching, ask the Holy Spirit to help and guide you, regardless of choices you have made in the past. Take time to understand the teaching. To help you, Married Love and the Gift of Life is a document from the U.S. bishops available on their website. It explains this teaching in an easy question and answer format (see usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-familyplanning/catholic-teaching/upload/Married-Love-and-the-Gift-of-Life-English-version.pdf). It is worth a prayerful reading.
Remember the response from today’s Psalm: “Lord, you are good and forgiving.” Trust His love. Open your heart as He knocks.
Even in our temerity, we can be assured of God’s mercy because God knows how easily we are confused.
From the Book of Wisdom today:
“For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all…..
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.“
We live in this very delicate balance between needing to utilize the power and authority of heaven that Jesus passed on to us, and yet being very VERY humble about how we critique ourselves and others.
This whole enterprise, the enterprise of a well-lived life, takes a lot of time and attention.
Where might we have seen the gifts of someone who had already been dismissed or unnoticed? How did we help to bring about more fruitfulness?
Suggested inroads to a deeper interior life; essential to living in Divine intimacy:
- Eucharist Book by Bishop Barron
- Ignatian Retreat in St. George
Questions from bulletin today….
Given the complexity of the human heart, how do we discern the holiness or righteousness of our own thoughts and actions? Those of others?
What types of weeds have been sown in the gardens of our lives? Who did it? When did we notice they were choking off our spirits?
As we look back VERY HONESTLY, what weeds might we have sown in others’ gardens? What effect did it have? How did our just and merciful God respond to our deeds? How did God respond to the errant behavior of those who may have been influenced by the weeds we have sown?
What weeds have been sown in our nation or our national consciousness? What has been our just response?
What weeds might our nation have sown in the fields around the world? What effect are these weeds having?